“The White Myths of Liberal Imperialism” .. A New Book Discusses the Legacy of Violence in the British Empire | culture

In the 20th century, the British Empire stretched across a quarter of the world’s land area, had a population of nearly 700 million and was called the largest empire in human history.

For many Britons, the history of the empire represented the culmination of their nation’s civilized rise, but what legacy has the British island given to the world?

American author Caroline Elkins, professor of history at Harvard University, traces more than 200 years of history, and her book “The Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire” (March 2022) reveals an imperial racist doctrine that adopts an excessive and continuous use of violence to secure the interests of the empire.

The historian, Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006, explains how the ideological underpinnings of violence took hold in the Victorian era (from Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837 until the turn of the 20th century), examines policies to punish “indigenous” rebellions, and how forms of violence became more systemic over time, and concludes that When Britain could no longer control the violence it had provoked and enacted, the empire declined.

Drawing on more than a decade of research across 4 continents, Legacy of Violence discusses aspects and cover-ups of Imperial violence politics, by showing how and why violence was the most salient factor in shaping the British Empire abroad, national identity at home, and Elkins flipping myths about The violence of the colonists is turned upside down, shedding new light on the role of empire in shaping the world today.

In her book (nearly 700 pages), she discusses how the use of violence was central to the spread of the British Empire even as it portrayed itself – to serve its own interests – as a charitable force. less than human.

The white myths of liberal imperialism

The author examines many examples of British colonial brutal policies including Britain’s increasingly violent efforts to consolidate its empire after World War I, the Boer War (in South Africa), the Irish War of Independence, the uprisings in India, Iraq, and Palestine, as well as British rule in Cyprus, Malaya (Malaysia and Indonesia) and Kenya .

It discusses the experiences of suppressing independence struggles under the guise of “liberal imperialism” and its propaganda that the British brought civilization and law into their colonies, and the book reveals that the same groups of soldiers and administrators, experienced in suppressing the “natives”, moved from one country to another as the Black and Tans unit moved. (Black and Tans) from Ireland to Palestine to suppress the Arab uprising against the British Mandate in Palestine in the thirties of the last century.

The book also deals with the suspension policies of civil liberties (emergency laws), often economic deprivation; Exacerbating famines, forced deportations, encouragement of ethnic and sectarian division, torture, and the use of death squads, as well as the use of ideological propaganda to demonize “anti-imperialist fighters” and control of information inside and outside the war zone, and at the same time imperial interest in public relations and emotional victimization. The book discusses how many of these policies were unsuccessful and unsuccessful in protecting imperial expansion.

Secrets of the colonization of Kenya

In the 1990s, Caroline Elkins began writing her dissertation on the study of the last years of British colonial rule of Kenya, but then discovered that British officials had created a vast network of secret concentration camps that housed up to 1.5 million people, including the people of Kikuyu tribe in Kenya.

In those camps, officials inflicted unimaginable sexual violence and sadistic forms of torture on the men and women of a tribe that was the country’s largest ethnic group. The author recounted her discoveries in her first book, Imperial Account: The Untold Story of the British Gulag in Kenya, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.

The author, who is the founding director of the Harvard Center for African Studies, published the summaries of her research on Britain’s suppression of the Kenyan “Mau Mau” uprising in the 1950s in her previous book, which was used in a case before British courts that resulted in compensation for more than 3,000 Kenyan survivors. Over 300,000 Kikuyu Kenyans were held in British concentration camps, resulting in tens or hundreds of thousands of victims as a result of forced labour, starvation and torture.

The previous book sparked enormous controversy in Britain, and was criticized by British intellectuals as exaggerations of “a generation of historians clinging to old ideas of the enlightened British Empire.” However, what was stated in the book was largely proven when, on the eve of a trial in 2011, an unearthed cache was revealed. Maarouf contains 240,000 top-secret colonial files, which were brought from Nairobi at the time of Kenya’s independence in 1963, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.

The book “The British Gulag: The Brutal End of the Empire in Kenya” by the American author Caroline Elkins (Al Jazeera)

The files were stored in a heavily guarded warehouse of the British Foreign Office near Northampton (97 kilometers northwest of London), and the secret document store also kept “missing” records in 8,000 files from 37 other former colonies, and the author commented on the discovery that exonerated her, “After all these years…they were sitting on top of the evidence, are you kidding me? This almost ruined my career,” she said.

More than a decade after the trial, which was based in part on the bunker files, Elkins argues that the sadistic methods that characterized the last activities of the empire in Kenya were not an aberration, but the usual behaviors of imperial power, whose detailing of this includes a dismantling not only of self-deception and myths about The largest empire in human history, but also included a discussion of the deliberate official destruction of large parts of its historical record.

big story

Elkins knew that her research on the Kenyan rebellion “was part of a much larger story,” a story about England’s wider use of “legal anarchy” to justify violent repression of a colonized population across its vast empire, and then destroying or obliterating evidence.

Elkins uses the concept of “legal anarchy” to study the phenomenon of exceptional state-run violence, especially at the time of the declaration of martial law, and reveals how regulations allow the military and police to strip the population under their control of all forms of legal protection, and also uses the term “legal lawlessness” to describe Britain’s methods To serve imperial ends, the book discusses how this “hypocrisy” and violation of the principles of liberalism was entrenched by considering colonial societies as “backward” that should be enlightened and prepared.

The book opens doors to question in many topics such as considering that Ireland’s revolution against Britain was on the model of the Indian revolution against the colonialist, how the fight against communism was part of British colonial propaganda in the 20th century, and how Hitler liked the ideas of the expansionist empire and the Nazis quoted some of its methods.

Caroline Elkins--Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Caroline Elkins Professor of History at Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize Winner 2006 (Harvard University)

“liberal imperialism”

In its presentation of the book, the American magazine “Foreign Affairs” said that the book amounts to more than a mere catalog of imperialist atrocities committed in the name of “liberalism.” While the policies of violent oppression helped unite the disparate colonies politically and culturally; Martial law and other emergency measures have recognized and endorsed state violence as necessary.

In the book, he notes, Ireland was classified as an inseparable part of the empire. While it was part of the United Kingdom, Ireland was seen when “it came to the question of the rule of law and civil liberties” as a testing ground for new methods of imperial violence and as a place to apply brutal techniques developed elsewhere.

The ruthless practices used to control the Empire’s hot spots were also carried over to the English homeland, where the wartime emergency powers of the Empire were brought to the UK to quell dissent, as when a 1939 act was passed allowing detention without trial of British citizens. Accused of posing a threat to national security.

The author believes that liberalism did not make an effective contribution to controlling power, and by the time liberal imperialism reached a state of “maturity” in Palestine – as the author wrote – the imperial state was in fact a “fig leaf for the rule of law”, but the empire eventually collapsed when “The oppressive center could not hold out.”

The author is exposed to the so-called “white man’s burden”, considering that Britain portrayed its colonial mission under a moral and civilized claim of “propagating liberalism” and bringing democracy, rule of law, free market, good governance and equal protection under British law, but the policies of systematic violence in structures and systems of government, revealed the dark side Empire has an extraordinary level of morally unjustifiable violence. The author asserts that many academics and scientists were “complicit in the colonial project”, driven by the rise of “scientific racism” that sees Africans – and even Irish – from inferior human races.

Source : The island + American press + British press